June 19, 2014 at 3:23 PM ET
Between mulling over expired condiments and wiping down remnants of old produce, cleaning out the refrigerator can be a lengthy and dreaded chore. But when it comes down to it, all that stands between you and a cleaner refrigerator is 15 minutes. Cleaning and organizing expert Donna Smallin Kuper shows how with a minute-by-minute plan. Set the timer and go!
In one minute:
Fill a large mixing bowl with warm water and a small squirt of dishwashing liquid. Remember to use warm water, not hot. “Take it from one who knows, hot water will crack the plastic pieces in the fridge,” says Kuper.
While the bowl is filling, clear the sink and a two-foot-wide area on the counter nearest the fridge. Pull the garbage can next to the fridge. Grab two microfiber cloths—one for washing, one for drying. Place the bowl on the counter and dip one cloth in soapy water, then wring it out. Kuper recommends using microfiber cloths because they cover a larger area than a sponge and are designed to pick up dirt and absorb water.
“Before you open the door of the fridge, listen to me,” says Kuper. “There’s no way you’re going to clean every nook and cranny of the inside, so let’s agree to tackle the big stuff.”
In six minutes:
Start at the top shelf and toss spoiled items into the garbage can. When in doubt, throw it out. Put empty storage containers in the dishwasher. Now, move what’s left to one side of the shelf. Wipe down the empty half of the shelf as well as the sides, as needed. (For a hardened or gooey spill, squeeze soapy water on it and let it sit while you clean the next shelf. It will wipe up easily.) Dry. As you transfer items to the clean side of the shelf, wipe containers, especially the bottoms, if needed. Wipe and dry second half of the shelf. Once the shelf is clean, group like-items, placing larger ones in the back and smaller ones in front. Continue until all shelves are emptied of spoiled food and wiped clean.
In five minutes:
Pull out one veggie drawer. Place the good stuff on the counter and toss spoiled produce and veggie debris into the garbage can. (Admit it. Doesn’t this give you a power rush?) Wash the inside of the drawer with soapy water using a microfiber cloth. Rinse. Dry. Replace produce. Wipe shelf that’s under veggie drawer. Slide drawer in.
Move to the next drawer, repeating the process. If a drawer cannot be removed, open the drawer as far as you can. Remove produce, tossing what’s spoiled and putting the rest on the counter. Wipe the drawer clean. Dry. Replace the produce.
In two minutes:
Take a look at the shelves in the door. Discard obviously past-date items. As needed, wipe tops, sides and bottoms of containers. Wipe obvious residue that is on the shelves. Rinse your microfiber cloth as it gets dirty. Wipe down the shelf fronts and the rest of the inside of the door. Wipe down the gasket.
In one minute:
Close the door. Rinse and wring out your microfiber cloth. Wipe the front of the refrigerator, especially around the handle. Rinse cloth again. Pour water down the sink and pop the bowl in the dishwasher.